Monday, April 30, 2012

What a Boy Wants - Review

Title: What a Boy Wants
Author: Nyrae Dawn
Release Date: April 6, 2012
Format/Page Count: KINDLE/141 pages
Publisher: Self Published--Amazon Digital Services
Purchased: Amazon

Courtesy of watching his mom’s relationships, Sebastian Hawkins knows what girls need to do to get a guy. He has what he considers a PHD in hooking up. When he needs extra cash for a car, Sebastian starts up an online venture as The Hook-up Doctor, to anonymously help girls land the guy of their dreams. Of course, his services don’t offer a happily-ever-after guarantee. He’s seen firsthand getting together never means staying together.

And then he falls in love…

With the last girl he would expect…

Totally not in his game plan.

Suddenly, Sebastian finds himself muddled in the game he’s always prided himself on. He can’t even pick up girls at parties anymore! Why would anyone want to be in love when it turns you into a stuttering, screwed-up, mess with really lame stalker tendencies? Stalking? Totally not his gig.

But the Hook-up Doctor won’t let himself go down easily. He’s always known how to give a girl what she wants and now it’s time to figure out what a boy wants… and he definitely plans on getting it. (From GOODREADS)

Expectation: This was yet another book I heard of through Twitter. It sounded good. I thought I would give it a try...not too much expectation, to tell the truth. I just liked the idea that it was in a guy's first person POV.

You would think an arrogant narrator would turn a reader off. But über cocky Sebastian is quickly accepted for who he is. He's the cool guy everybody likes. The smooth operator. He's so suave, in fact, he runs a blog to hire out his hook-up services to girls looking to understand and 'connect' with Mr. Right. What does Sebastian care if they only succeed in a plain old simple hook-up, instead of the lasting relationship they might actually be looking for? Sebastian himself is not one for love. He's happy to hook-up with the ladies and steer well clear of relationships and love. After seeing what love does time and again to his single mother, he's happy to continue having a good time without strings.

Nyrae Dawn does an incredible job getting into the head of a teenage boy. She captures the voice perfectly. Although Sebastian's Hook-Up Doctor status kind of makes him a bit of a slime-ball (lets face sounds a little bit skeezy to be selling hook-up skills over the internet!), Dawn is masterful in her ability to make the reader still care about her dastardly narrator. He's a teenage boy, after all. They can be excused for such things, right. Especially if the writer allows the reader to see all the good inside. And under his Hook-Up Doctor facade, Sebastian's just a good kid.

Sebastian starts to see his BFF, Aspen, as something more than a friend. Did she always have the curves he's only now noticing? Has she always been so pretty? The hook-up doctor's 'no emotions-no love' rule seems to crumble as he begins to see Aspen in a new light. But there are all kinds of roadblocks in this quick paced young adult romance. You'll enjoy unravelling the story to find out what happens. It was such a pleasant surprise to watch the characters stumble and grow. The two remaining main characters, Jaden and Pris only add to the enjoyment. Though the friends make up a seemingly unbreakable foursome, Jaden and Pris just can't see eye to eye. Their friction makes for some interesting situations. Friction aside, though, these friends look after one the point of having a PPP (Pre-Party Plan) to keep each other out of trouble.

This is a quick and endearing read. Sebastian is one of the more memorable characters I've read about in recent months. I heard a rumour Ms. Dawn will be bringing her characters back to life in a follow-up of What a Boy Wants (I believe the title is What a Boy Needs and that it takes us closer into the life of Sebastian's best guy friend, Jaden). I, for one, will definitely be picking it up. These characters are vibrant and real. I look forward to spending more time with them!

One important detail I feel I need to address. I would have given this book a 5 1/2 but for this one detail. I know this title is self-published. It's a great great read and I recommend it highly and happily. BUT...there are a few little mistakes within its pages that could have been avoided. There are issues here and there regarding tense. It's written in past tense, but every once in a while there's a slip. There are also a few missing words, or extra words here and there. None of the editing issues take away from the story.
That detail aside...go pick up this book. Nyrae Dawn is a name I'm sure we'll hear a lot about in the future. What a Boy Wants will NOT disappoint! (If I were an agent and this book came across my desk...I'd be ALL over it!)


EXPECTATION: Having not much expectation for this title, I can safely say it blew me away. Loved Sebastian's voice. Made it easy to plow through this great story!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Mexican WhiteBoy - Review

Title: Mexican WhiteBoy

Author: Matt de la Peña

Release Date: August 12, 2008

Format/Page Count: Kindle/258 Pages

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Purchased: Amazon

NOTE: This author was brought to my attention through BOOKALICIOUS.ORG

Pam posted about Matt's books being removed from the curriculum in Arizona...and she challenged other readers to read Mexican WhiteBoy along with her in April. I took her up on the challenge. (-:


DANNY’S TALL AND skinny. Even though he’s not built, his arms are long enough to give his pitch a power so fierce any college scout would sign him on the spot. A 95 mph fastball, but the boy’s not even on a team. Every time he gets up on the mound he loses it.

But at his private school, they don’t expect much else from him. Danny’s brown. Half-Mexican brown. And growing up in San Diego that close to the border means everyone else knows exactly who he is before he even opens his mouth. Before they find out he can’t speak Spanish, and before they realize his mom has blond hair and blue eyes, they’ve got him pegged. Danny’s convinced it’s his whiteness that sent his father back to Mexico. And that’s why he’s spending the summer with his dad’s family. Only, to find himself, he might just have to face the demons he refuses to see right in front of his face. (From GOODREADS)

Expectation: This book sounded interesting, of course. But I didn't have any real expectation. I just thought it was pathetic that it would be removed from a curriculum. I wanted to support the author and send a message to the idiots who 'banned' his books. But I didn't really know enough about it to have any real sense of expectation.


Before I start in on my gushing for this novel, I wanted to begin by saying that the story TOTALLY snuck up on me. As I was reading about a hitting competition in the beginning of the book, I had no idea how deep the story would go. Initially it was an interesting read, yes...but it suddenly became so much more than I first imagined it would be. It blossomed into such a great coming of age story...filled with wisdom and memorable characters.

Danny moves to National City to spend the summer with his father's family. Danny felt like an outsider at the preppy private school he attended, because he is half-Mexican, but coming to National City, he feels like an outsider because he is half-white. He doesn't speak a word of Spanish. He loves his father's family...almost irrationally. He wants so much to be like be Mexican like them.

Upon Danny's arrival to the neighbourhood, he takes part in a batting competition after being prodded by his cousin Sofia. Sofia is feisty and fiery and she loves her cousin. She protects him in the neighbourhood...sticks up for him when kids ask why Danny doesn't talk.

When Danny shows prowess with a baseball bat, Uno, one of the neighbourhood boys, has a problem with him. Uno doesn't like the competition. He clearly feels threatened, so he pitches Danny a bad ball. Danny struggles to get a piece of the errant pitch and accidentally sends his bat through the air...right into Uno's developmentally handicapped brother's face. Uno's reaction is to break Danny's face open with his fist. This causes Danny to slam his head into the ground.

This is not a great start to Uno and Danny's relationship.

The great surprise I discovered as I continued to read is that these two boys become best friends. The turn in their relationship begins at a local fair, when some of the boys take turns at a pitching cage equipped with a speed gun to measure the speed of a thrower's pitch. Uno's quick switch from bitter jealousy and dislike to admiration of Danny's gift is absolutely transformative.

From this point on in the story, I was delighted by the way the two boys grew their friendship. It was great to see Uno teach Danny to reign in his wild pitches, and to watch the two grow together and take on each other's better qualities. Uno turns out to be the best coach (both life-coach and pitching-coach) that Danny has ever had. And Danny blossoms under Uno's tutelage. His thoughtful inward personality actually seems to wear off on Uno over the course of the novel. It's just a great relationship to witness...well worth reading Mexican WhiteBoy for.

There are some great moments in this book...from the hustling scenes Uno and Danny participate in, to the parties the close-knit group of teens have, to the quiet moments Uno and Danny share at the train tracks.

There is also a LOT of darkness in this story. To begin with, Danny's father is GONE. Just gone. He doesn't know why, but the truth comes out along the way...and it is a truth that initially crushes Danny. It's his passionate cousin, Sofia, who helps him through the difficulty he experiences with this plot-line. Sofia and Uno, who seems wise beyond his years...and is so much more than the bully we thought he was at the beginning of the story.

I won't get into everything that goes on in this story...because it is so worth picking up. I don't want to spoil any more of the surprises that happen along the way. Just go get this book! You won't regret it. But here's a hint...GIVE IT TIME. If you're anything like me, you'll be quietly reading along and suddenly think, 'heh...this is good. This is real good.' It's the first book that snuck up on me in a long time. It starts out quiet, but the ride picks up until you realize you're absolutely 100% hooked in.

I would happily recommend this book to anyone. Matt de la Peña does an amazing job playing with the reader's expectations. Quiet shifts in his characters become explosions on the page. Once you start reading Mexican WhiteBoy, you will fall in love with these strong characters and delight over the way they play off one another.


EXPECTATION: Ha! Even after the first few pages, my expectation wasn't that extreme. And then the shifts began and my love for the story grew and grew. I want to thank Pam from Bookalicious for turning me on to this author. I will be picking up more of his books! It's safe to say my expectations were blown out of the water.

AND Special Message to Arizona, who removed Matt's books from their curriculum: SHUT UP! This is a brilliant relationship book...a great book about friendship. I can't see anything inappropriate with it. It's been called anti-white...just ridiculous. It sounds like another case of book banning by people who didn't bother opening the book and reading it.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Gone, Gone, Gone - Review

Title: Gone, Gone, Gone

Author: Hannah Moskowitz

Release Date: April 17, 2012

Format/Page Count: Kindle/288 pages

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Purchased: Amazon


In the wake of the post-9/11 sniper shootings, fragile love finds a stronghold in this intense, romantic novel from the author of Break and Invincible Summer.

It's a year after 9/11. Sniper shootings throughout the D.C. area have everyone on edge and trying to make sense of these random acts of violence. Meanwhile, Craig and Lio are just trying to make sense of their lives. Craig’s crushing on quiet, distant Lio, and preoccupied with what it meant when Lio kissed him...and if he’ll do it again...and if kissing Lio will help him finally get over his ex-boyfriend, Cody. Lio feels most alive when he's with Craig. He forgets about his broken family, his dead brother, and the messed up world. But being with Craig means being vulnerable...and Lio will have to decide whether love is worth the risk.

This intense, romantic novel from the author of Break and Invincible Summer is a poignant look at what it is to feel needed, connected, and alive.

Expectation: I am a SOLID Moskowitz fan. Hannah is one of my favourite (not so) new authors. I have yet to be disappointed by her works. In fact, I absolutely adore every Hannah Moskowitz book on the market. My expectation for this book was TOO HIGH.

Market/Genre: Young Adult/Contemporary


Favourite Moments: 

'If I could take all the machine guns in the world and bend them into hearts, I totally totally would, even if I got grazed by bullets in the process, which knowing me I probably would, because I'm a little bit of a klutz, but Lio thinks I'm cute.'

'I love you, you fucking idiot, and I love you crazy and I love you sane, so will you please answer my emails?'

'One woman is not very many. Nine dead people, total, is not very many. But my stomach hurts so hard.'

'Something about the fact that he asked me if I was in New York, and I'm not in New York, and then he says he misses me even though I'm here, I'm just not here with him...I think I understand for the first time what it means to be in a relationship.'

From the moment I first read BREAK by Hannah Moskowitz, I knew I would read each consecutive novel she ever releases. Gone, Gone, Gone (from this point on referred to as GGG) is my 4th Moskowitz read (Break, Invincible Summer & Zombie Tag being her first three novels). As usual, I was NOT disappointed! Moskowitz continues to pepper her wonderfully real YA and MG novels with poignant heart-achingly awesome life. She is a master at instilling her readers with an emotional attachment to the worlds of her characters. An absolute master.

One of the things I love about GGG is the dual first-person narration. This is something that--as an author--I have used twice myself. Something about the dual first-person viewpoint really gives the reader such great insights into a story. With GGG the two main characters, Craig and Lio, take turns narrating chapters. Moskowitz carries out this back and forth narration flawlessly. One never forgets which of the two characters are narrating, as each are wonderfully unique.

GGG opens with Craig discovering that not only was his house broken into, but his menagerie of house pets have all escaped through the broken windows. Through this discovery, the reader begins to sense a slight brokenness in endearing brokenness. We are also introduced to Todd, Craig's older brother. What would a Moskowitz novel be without an extraordinary brother/brother relationship! I still don't know how she does it. The reader gets a quick picture of this relationship in the way that Todd checks up on Craig, shows concern for him. There's this wonderful line in the first chapter that really captures something of their relationship. 'Todd has this way of being affectionate that I see but usually don't feel.'

The reader is also made aware in the opening chapter that 9/11 plays a prominent role in the story-line. The denizens of GGG are all on edge from the freshness of the terrorist attacks. Lio is from New York, newly settled in Maryland. While he deals with the memories of New York's version of 9/11 events, Craig struggles with the D.C. area's version--which included the death of his ex-boyfriend's father in the Pentagon. The story begins only 13 months after the towers fell. The raw nerves the characters display get re-electrified with a new fear as the DC sniper shootings begin.

To quickly describe the plot of GGG, it opens with an animal hoarding Craig. Apparently he is replacing his boyfriend (and his social life) with a menagerie of fury friends. He acts as something of a Welcome Wagon spokesperson for his school. He is assigned Lio, who is transferring to his school from New York. Their relationship begins in IM, but quickly develops from there. Lio is a boy who can possibly be fixed, unlike Craig's messed up institutionalized boyfriend Cody...who never recovered from his father's 9/11 death. Lio lived through cancer and had a twin brother who did not make it through his own cancer ordeal. Lio is as messed up as his multi-coloured hair. Something about him re-ignites Craig's life. Just as something about Craig re-ignites Lio's desire to speak, to engage in life.

"His tragic flaw is that he is a walking tragedy, and his smile makes me feel alive." ~ Craig, describing Lio.

As the two form a relationship, they struggle to live in a world gone mad with the random shooting spree of the Beltway Sniper. As everyone around them ducks and weaves to avoid being shot at, they slowly come together amid the chaos. Still dealing with the emotional fallout of 9/11, the two go about their lives trying not to become victims of the sniper. All the while, they are trying to reassemble Craig's gone, gone, gone menagerie. There are some wonderful moments in the story where the boys put everything down to mathematics---the odds of becoming a sniper victim, the differences in the number of tragic deaths in New York as compared to those in D.C.. We are made aware through character growth that the figures don't matter, that numbers don't matter. That each life lost is a life lost, come what may. There is something just achingly familiarly and melancholic in the insights we are given through the eyes of these two boys in love.

These two boys each have pasts to unravel and come to terms with. Doing so amid the re-collection of Craig's menagerie and the simultaneously unnerving sniper attacks makes for an exciting pace that will engage the reader non-stop. I read this novel in just over a day. Not unlike Moskowitz's other books, I just couldn't put it down. She writes with a rawness that makes the reader right at home inside both the tragedies and the joys of her stories. I highly recommend Gone, Gone, Gone. If you are not yet a Moskowitz fan, if you have yet to stumble upon her fiction, this book will bring you in hook, line and sinker. Be prepared, though. You'll want to pick up the rest of her quickly growing catalogue of work.

SIZE:5 (1/2!)

Expectation: Forget about it. Blew my expectations out of the water. I will read cocktail napkins that Moskowitz scribbles on. Hannah Moskowitz is a RELEASE DAY AUTHOR. No two ways about it!